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Beijing Family Faces Wenchuan Earthquake First Moment


Retrospect 2008: Memories from local people in Beijing, the old capital city of China

(The photo above is the si ghtseeing west to the top center of Beijing.)

Beijing Family Faces Wenchuan Earthquake First Moment

A record of Mr. Ma Hongyi, a Chinese Renowned Democratic Personage, and His Family

(Author: United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee)

At 14:28:04 Beijing time, Monday afternoon, May 12, 2008, the extremely violent Wenchuan Earthquake occurred and shocked the world. Its meizoseismal area reached as wide as 100,000 square kilometers, and it affected nearly 1/2 of Provinces, Municipalities directly under the central government and Autonomous Regions in China. In capital Beijing, this was 1530 km away from Wenchuan, as the crow flies, many families made reactions initially and immediately at the same day, expressing their profound feelings with grief, compassion, conscience and motion to the disaster area and their fellow countrymen who suffered calamities. They donated voluntarily to support their country, and the quake relief of the whole nation. The famous democratic personage Mr. Ma Hongyi’s was just one of such families.

I. Mr. and Mrs. Ma’s Only Daughter Was Busy in Intense as Usual as Her Parents

The only daughter of Mr. Ma Hongyi(Ma Hong-yi/馬弘毅), Ma Yuge(Ma Yu-ge/馬宇歌) is now a junior student in Tsinghua University, Beijing. She is very heavy in the school. During the earthquake days, her studies and basic work were as follows:

First, the job at university: she is a news telecast director of the Tsinghua TV station. Since her entering into the University in 2005, she has been responsible not only for frame-out, planning, writing manuscripts, hosting, broadcasting before the scene, but for her holding the post of head of the broadcasting group since her junior year, Monday, Sep. 14, 2007. There are more important issues for her to ponder and arrange personally every week. The Tsinghua TV station must have new content to promote unceasingly everyday.

Second, Ma is a volunteer from Tsinghua University of the two Olympic Games, the Beijing Olympic Games, which will be held three months later, and the Beijing Paralympics Games soon after the former one. She and her schoolmates are responsible for media reception and other kinds of services of the newly-built and newly-used Beijing Water Cube Natatorium. From February 13, 2008, the seventh day of New Year of the lunar calendar in winter vacation, Ma needs to participate in the after-school training and sports event locale services held by the Beijing Olympic Organization Committee frequently.   

Third, Ma, as one of those rare students who strive for double bachelor’s degrees of arts and natural science at the same time, these two items request her attain the diplomas on time before her graduation on the summer holiday, 2009.

Fourth, Ma’s first foreign language is English. She achieved a good result as 7.0 points when she took the general test worldwide of IELTS on March 5, 2008 the first time (the perfect score is elegantly 9.0 points). Her second foreign language is French. She registered on March 30 in the foreign language department of Tsinghua University for the June 21 TFU nation wide tests according to her own circumstances.

Fifth, Ma has also enlisted on April 28 for GRE tests, which are held only twice a year. Now she is preparing in strain for the last test worldwide this year in October in Beijing. She strives for high score so that she can make full preparation for the higher education abroad after she receives her double bachelor’s degrees. Ma resolves to inherit more human culture achievement, to learn the more advanced science and technologies domestic and foreign, and to master the ability of scientific jobs so that to work for the construction of motherland to be a stronger, more prosperous, democratic, civilized and harmonious country.

When only observing from her current jobs and studies above, Mr. Ma’s daughter Ma Yuge has a full schedule everyday, let alone her joining in lots of social activities at regular intervals on ordinary days from invitation to help in and out of School of Architecture of Tsinghua University to hosting large-scale public welfare activities which can’t be refused, and her helping with kinds of important news reports. Furthermore, several years as one day, she stipulates herself to read some extracurricular books regularly. At present she is reading the four-column Concise History of China by the late Chinese historian Fan Wenlan. About the history of motherland, she only completed the whole set calligraphy book of The Chinese Historical Stories and some related officially periodic history. Ma maintains the fixed habits of doing exercises everyday from her childhood, such as jogging, swimming or playing a ball game. She snatches a little leisure from her busy life. So she has got better and better physique now and she hardly has a cold all year round. Her eye-sight is also very good needless of wearing glasses. She is slim, stiff and rigorous. All these build up an excellent bodily foundation for her fulfilling the arduous work and studying duty successfully and for her enjoying a promising life.

II.  Parents’ Performance When Quake Took Place

Ma’s father, Mr. Ma Hongyi is the first person who felt the quake of May 12, 2008 in his family. He was in Beijing at that certain time, he felt suddenly some ear bulge, chest stuffy, day corona and a little bit dizzy. Mr. Ma searched the websites immediately then it proved that an intense earthquake of 7.8 Richter magnitudes took place, declared by China’s State Bureau of Seismology (from a news of May 19, China’s State Bureau of Seismology revised it as 8 Richter magnitudes yesterday), with its epicenter in Wenchuan, Sichuan province, and it involved Beijing, a city as far as 1530 km linear distance. The quake Mr. Ma felt in Beijing was at least 3.9 Richter magnitudes, proved by the China’s State Bureau of Seismology. He recalled the particularly devastating earthquake in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region at 3:42:54 a.m. on July 28, 1976; the meizoseismal area was 26,000 square kilometers Mr. Ma once experienced by himself in Beijing. It destroyed a middle-sized city Tangshan, at least 98% buildings of that city collapsed instantaneously, thousands of people died, and over 1 billion people injured, 15,886 families disintegrated, 3,817 people amputated, 25,061 handicapped, left 3,675 widowed, 4,204 orphaned, thousands of hundreds of residents needed relief since they were helpless, homeless, and with no relatives. Nevertheless, no data shows that any person in Sichuan had felt the quake. Why this time, with its epicenter in Sichuan, could be felt in a city as far as Beijing, even farther than Tianjin (the Tangshan earthquake took place nearby)?
Thus this Wenchuan earthquake must have greater destruction than that of Tangshan, the most devastating quake in the latter half of twentieth century. Mr. Ma realized this acutely that there must be more victims suffered more losses. So he called his wife, who was at work then, and his daughter with phones and cells to exchange information and discuss how the entire family to help and rescue the victims on initially right away.
At the first moment and as the first person, Mr. Ma submitted his donation application and his first disaster relief donation to his work department and the Democratic Party he belongs to. He then wrote and called up the organization system of his work place, his Democratic Party and his profession colleagues to act immediately to aid the disaster area and support the nationwide quake relief.
Mr. Ma’s motion obtained attention and support from the central government and the certain fields in Beijing. While, Mrs. Ma just stayed at her work place instantly to stand ready for emergency treatment. She assisted with all her strength with leaders of her department of arrangement in quake relief.

Mrs. Ma works in central part of Beijing, but she didn’t go home until May 17, as she was required by her higher authorities to stayed there and donate for quake relief enthusiastically from the next day of quake. She worked in tense together with her colleagues from morning till night. Until May 17, that was five days after the quake, could Mrs. Ma go home to meets her family again. The couple then went to Tsinghua University that Sunday to see their daughter and her good friends coming from other places.
III.  How Did the Daughter Act When Quakes

Ma, the daughter, did not have a moment of leisure all day long on that earthquake day. It was until mid-night, nearly 8 hours after the quake took place that Ma had finished kinds of matters and classes from the classroom to her dormitory, Zijin (cercis chinensis) dormitory, northeast of Tsinghua University. During that same night she wrote four letters without any delay: the first letter sends to the base branch she belongs to of School of Architecture, Tsinghua University; the second one to the leaders of Tsinghua TV Station, where she hold current jobs during her spare time; the third to the persons in charge of the Youth Committee of Red Cross Organization, Tsinghua University; the fourth to the Student Association of Tsinghua University (the School Student Council), in the building of the School Committee of the Communist Youth League. Each letter was enclosed with 100 Yuan as disaster relief donation. All together there were 400 Yuan, and that was actually the amount of her living allowance per month.

In each letter, she appealed that everybody must go into action immediately and practically for the quake relief. The next day after dawn, she submitted these letters personally to each party concerned then ran back the classroom to attend class on time.
Here is an excerpt from the letter Ma wrote to the Red Cross Committee, Tsinghua University, in the evening on May 12, the quake day. This letter intently refracted and has represented this Beijing family’s response to and concerning about the strong quake and victim areas far away from them till May 19 the reporter published his news.

 An application to the Red Cross Branch, Tsinghua University from a junior student Ma Yuge

 May 12, 2008 Monday evening
 Zijin dormitory, Tsinghua University


Respected Red Cross Committee:

I was shocked when I learned that at 14:28 a Wenchuan intensive earthquake, which was 7.8 Richter magnitudes in its epicenter, occurred in our country’s Sichuan province. It could be felt in Beijing, a city away from it 1530 km. The quake was 3.9 Richter magnitudes at 14:35 here. Our president Mr. Hu Jintao made important instructions at the first time to organize for the quake relief. The Red Cross China took actions rapidly, too.

My family member narrated the exceptionally frigid situation of Tangshan earthquake took place 32 years ago. That quake damaged the medium-sized Tangshan, a city of thousands of residents in Hebei province, together with their properties in instantaneous deconstruction. But even such an intense quake is still weaker than and does not have the harm affects so far as this Wenchuan quake, no matter its seismaesthesia or its damaged area involved. Therefore I thought that the Wenchuan quake must have more victims and more serious damages than that of the Tangshan quake. My mood is very heavy.

I am an “old” Red Cross member, as I joined it at 7, and was awarded the first batch of “Beijing outstanding Red Cross Youth Member” by Beijing Municipal Education Committee when I was 10 years old in Grade Five of my elementary school. As a 20-year-old Cross member and a student of Tsinghua University, I’d like to follow the instructions of our central government positively so as to write this application at mid-night and hope to participate in the current quake relief. Facing this calamity, I will do what responsibility and need request me to do. I put out 100 Yuan first from my living expenses enclosed here for practical action positively to aid the disaster area. Please help me to donate the money promptly.
I summoned that each of our Red Cross member, under the correct powerful guidance of the higher authorities, completing the respective official duty on one hand, and defers to Red Cross’s unified request simultaneously the other hand, stand out here from Tsinghua University to take part in the quake relief immediately and help to protect our people’s life and property of our nation from damage as less as possible.
 Attached 100 Yuan donation here.
Ma Yuge
Junior student of Architecture School,Tsinghua University


IV.  Gradual Influence and Eternal Pursuance of Love

Ma, as the correspondent found out from Tsinghua University, was the first university student there responded the quake relief instructions of General Secretary Hu Jintao in practice. The reason that she could stand by with such high consciousness on initiative willingness rapidly had its historical origin. Going 5 years backwards, when Ma was a 15-year-old student of “coordinated process experimental class”, a continuous training programme in Grade one (the 8th class in those enrolled in 2002) of the Senior High School Attached to Tsinghua University, she stepped forward as first and wrote to the Youth League committee of her school and some popular public opinion platforms in favor of her contemporaries such as Middle-School Student Branch Journal, Youth Popular Science Newspaper, Moral Education Newspaper and so on on May 4 Youth Day when there was public disquiet with the serious consequence of SARS. The written proposal she wrote to Youth League members of middle schools nationwide was logical and reasonable and became quite influential since it was published on the first column of the front page (the original text is appended below). In it she advocated bravely the young people of the nation against the dangerous infectious disease’s wide-area dissemination, encouraging them to strive for the final victory of anti-epidemic disease fully and confidently under the organized unified rule of the central government.
Her public welfare behavior had received agreement from both the elder generations and her contemporaries. The minister of the school branch of Central Committee of the Youth League Mr. Zhang went to encourage her in particular at that time.
During the havoc period of SARS indulgence in persecution, the whole city of Beijing had set some regulations to all the enrolled students there that they would relief from school and stop their lessons not at all certain for the sake of the conditions not getting worse. Teachers of the High School Attached to Tsinghua University could remember Ma’s positive practice as staying at school to help those who had not been able to leave school temporarily for some certain reasons with the consent and support from her parents. Despite of her own safety, she coordinated with her school to stabilize the condition and set teachers and schoolmates’ mind at rest. She was the last student leaving school. When she carried on her baggage for home days later there were few persons at school. The sun-bathed main streets and small alleys were almost empty. Ma, during those long time at home waiting for orders of resuming classes from Beijing Municipal Education Committee, insisted on doing exercises with her family members, e.g. jogging, playing balls games, and keeping in touch with the Communist Party Committee, the Youth League Committee of her school, the head student of her grade, the supervisor and other teachers. Thus she cooperated with her school and studied independently and earnestly without dropping any schoolwork.
Meanwhile she stayed at home unceasingly answering telephones from and found time outside telephoning others, maintaining close relation with each classmate, searching for means anti-epidemic service, recalling happy days of school life, discussing lessons of curriculum and extra-curriculum books, planning for the expectation of her class and grade, and so on. Ma personally set an example and earnestly acted what she advocated in the written proposal, cooperated with the certain parties to strive for the final victory against SARS.
Ma, currently 20, with the good and gradual family influence of lofty humanitarianism, always wears two badges alternatively, one “universal love”, another “the world belongs to all”. When she was ten, she had firm faith of “the universal love to accompany me to take the world”. Many years past, she did scholarly research assiduously and serve for people simultaneously as she was praised and encouraged on the New Year’s party of celebrating the year of earth rabbit of the Tibetan calendar in the Capital on February 12, 1999 with written words by the two leaders: Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, the vice President of CPPCC, and Booher, the vice President of Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. She had come to realize how to contribute her love selflessly for our society and our nation.
Many stories about Mr. Ma’s influence upon his family members, esp. on his daughter Ma, were noted down by people having a mind and then circulated rapidly and widely among ordinary populace on books, newspapers and publications during different times. When searches on the website with Ma Yuge’s Chinese name “马宇歌”, a name now used by Ma particularly, one may momentarily see no less than 100,000 reports on actual events. Those articles, from certain aspects, mapped the love of an ordinary Beijing family for others and the society of our time. It is a miniature of the main stream of social concept and a representation of the main body image of capital inhabitants.
Another thing also moving and worthy mentioning is that Ma, with support and approval from her parents, did shoulder her packs afterwards with that belief “the universal love accompanies me to take the world” to realize her loft ideal in her small age. During the four years from 9 to 13, she had gone all over the motherland solitarily and offered her compassion for her people when paused among over 200 cities, counties, towns, villages of 31 provinces, municipalities or autonomous regions. In Ma’s words, she was “read a lot and make trip further, and make friends worldwide”.
V.  The Whole Nation Is Hopeful with All the People of One Mind

The Mas is a microcosm not only of those countless families participated in the quake relief while living far away from the epicenter of Wenchuan earthquake, but of the unfading Chinese nation conscience. This kind of patriotism, of stepping forward boldly of one’s whole family with selfless contribution in front of the major issue of principles to protect the people, is worth of promoting, enhancing and carrying out with great effort nowadays.
The Wenchuan quake rescue effort is carrying on intense now. The announcement of the State Council of CPC on May 18, 2008 issued that all the national flags on May 19, 2008 would be at half-mast for three days from early in the morning of May 19, including the flags nationwide and the Chinese embassies abroad. It instructed that the whole nation stand in silent tribute for three minutes from 14:28 p.m., the moment when Wenchuan earthquake too place. It is the first time in China for 59 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China that our whole nation flies a flag at half-mast, blows a whistle and pays silent tribute for the ordinary populace who suffered distress. The announcement of State Council also ordered the three days as the National Mourning Days from May 19 to May 21, 2008, 1,300,000,000 people of the entire China, which was 1/5 of world population, may deeply express grief with tears to the quake victims, with whom our blood is thicker than water.
From this the Chinese soul, was as lofty as the rainbow spanning the sky. At this moment, each person made a solemn vow in his heart: China will not be defeated; the victory belongs to the great Chinese nation forever, because our younger generation is inheriting humanity’s civilization essence, rising to prominence with the profound broad vision and the grand mind in the east of the world. They are absolutely hopeful. Regarding this, we felt relieved totally.

Attached An Initial Written Proposal to Youth Leagues in middle School all Over the Country in the back for reading, which was written by Mr. and Mrs. Ma Hongyi`s child Ma Yuge and was published in the newspapers in 2003 when the whole nation was in critical moment temporarily because of SARS:

An Initial Written Proposal to Youth Leagues in middle School all Over the Country

 "May 4th" Youth Day, 2003  Tinghua Campus

Dear all League members:        

All of us have worn the red scarf. You will certainly remember a call sign of ours at that time: "Preparing constantly!” This day has already come. SARS is spreading throughout the world and over the whole country, and has already bereaved human being of many siblings’ valuable lives. This is a disaster that the whole world faces together. It, to us, from body constitution, psychological quality, even respects such as knowledge level, morality, etc., has proposed extremely realistic, severe challenge and test.
Communist Youth League member is the backbone of all the Chinese youth. Countless elites and boy wonders assemble in this team. We shoulder the important task of achieving the goal in social development and economic construction that are prosperous, strong, democratic and culturally-advanced in China’s future. The grand scene of comprehensively building an affluent society in 2020 will open out before our generation. In this critical time that the whole world is confronted with the catastrophe SARS, we each League member ought to be more clear-headed, strong-willed, and is full of upward spirit of science. We should obey the unified leadership and direction from parent-organization with actual deeds, take the lead to maintain the normal teaching order exemplarily on campus, and concern all people around us with love. The biggest compassion that we give teachers and schoolmates is that we do the personal hygiene carefully and meticulous. No matter in what case, we should always be learning-oriented and in no case should we slightly give up the goal of diligently studying. Meanwhile,certainly we still have to strictly observe social morals, and there should appear nothing that endangers others` health or even life safety owing to our negligence.
We are students at school, and still students outside. Everyone should compare with each other whose self-supervisory capability and self-study ability is the most strong. After finishing the assignment in the class, we hope everybody can strive to achieve these following things during this special period:

1. Listen to the radio, watch television and read newspapers and magazines everyday, and especially whereby pay close attention at any time to various situations of SARS.

2. Under the coach of teachers and parents, work out our own program of outside reading, read extensively, make the most of existing time, and complete the goal of outside reading that we had no time to finish in the past as early as possible.

3. Insist on doing physical exercise and ocular gymnastics everyday;

4. Help parents with household maintenance at home, and we hope everyone should go into the kitchen; 

5. Arrange a certain period of time for sun bath everyday, taking the ultraviolet ray to sterilize and kill viruses.
Combining with the locating environment, schoolmates should also make some concrete arrangements much more in accord with individual`s unique feature. Schoolmates with permissible conditions should exchange information,communicate closely, improve friendship, and encourage each other over E-mail and telephone as much as possible. Anyone who found a new situation or encounter an unexpected thing should report to one`s own head teacher and the school authorities in time. With the concerted efforts, the leaders’ correct guidance in each school, and we giving full play to the leading function of pioneer and model of the League, we are certain to go through it with solidarity, and overcome the attack of this virus disaster. As a generation of youth newly entering into the 21st century, this life experience is also a good test and rehearsal for us to grow up strong and sturdy henceforth and achieve the goal in future life successfully. We should see the bright in the plight. Facing the approach of the negative situation, we still should manage to change the disadvantage into advantage, and enable us to get a realization leap on our own ideology diathesis.
On this memorable "May 4th" Youth Day, I hope every League member and schoolmate should keep in mind that unforgettable call sign: “preparing constantly!” And live before you leave finally and win the bright tomorrow that belongs to us.

Ma Yuge

Student of “coordinated process experimental class” in Grade one (the 8th class which enrolled in 2002), Senior High School Attached to Tsinghua University


(图为2008年马宇歌在家的自己生日蛋糕,蛋糕上的中文字是“21岁生日,心系汶川”。The photo is the birthday cake for Ma Yuge in her home 2008, it writes: 21 years old, have Wenchuan earthquake disaster area in heart.)







The Chinese original report Beijing Family Faces Wenchuan Earthquake First Moment-- A record of Mr. Ma Hongyi, a Chinese Renowned Democratic Personage, and His Family comes from China Publishing Group

(Chinese original website links: )

Date:2009-1-5 13:30:00     
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